He’d left her at the altar again.
This bought the count to four.
Constance stared off towards the horizon, which was little more than a haze now. It had been placed to be a mid afternoon wedding, but the time waiting had ticked the minutes closer to sunset. She stood, bouquet in hand, dress flawless in its virgin white, staring out over the sea. The surf crashed against the rocks below, and she figured that by all rights, she should be feeling the same rage right now.
The lights of the Taranaki Arcologies were starting to blink on. The wind was starting to set in a little more bitter. Constance let that be the lead for her mood as she felt Manly’s presence behind her.
“Ummm,” He sounded apologetic in his presence, by the tone in his words. “Hate to be a bother, Lady, but chances are he’s not coming.”
“I figured that when he was five minutes late, Manly, but thanks for the update.”
Her handler, a diminutive man in his forties, had more the look of a father about him. They’d gone with that idea for the wedding. He struck quite the figure in his perfectly pressed, collarless suit. The coal black was broken by a brilliant gold waistcoat, something that gave the whole grooms party a rather Old Worldly appeal.
“I think perhaps it might be time to send them on their way,” Manly suggested. His tone was gentle, of course. It couldn’t be anything less, given the situation.
It was about then that Constance made the decision. She drew a long breath, and then glanced over the edge of the cliff. She tossed the bouquet over the rails. Lucky for the wildlife. They were real flowers, she reflected. Constance hitched up her white skirts and turned to face the gathered. They stood about nervous and quietly embarrassed for her.
“Right,” she said, raising her voice over the sound of the surf. “Games up, boys. Your all dressed up, you might as well have a night on the town. But you’re not going to a wedding reception tonight.”
The looks she got back were quietly apologetic. Constance figured they played their part well. Manly fell in step beside her as she started back towards the skycar. Behind her, the gathered many started to fall out, like an army squad dismissed.
What a bloody farce, Constance thought. She glanced down as she heard Manly clearing his throat.
“What? The Agency can get back the deposit on the venue can’t it?”
“That’s if the Agency feels that it shouldn’t come out of the Lady’s own stipend,” Manly remarked, quiet. That same stiff upper lip she had come to expect.
“Give me a break!”
“At any rate, Lady, ears and eyes,” he replied, keeping his voice soft. That time old adage. “Ears and eyes.”
“Sure. Fine. I just don’t see how many times we have to go through with this.”
“This could be the last time. Depending on what the Principle thinks.”
Constance gave a dry, sarcastic look. Whatever her feelings on being stood up again, there was still the fact that it had taken time out of her schedule. Wasted her time. He had wasted her time. “Ears and eyes,” she remarked, shooting it back on her handler.
“Priority one,” he replied, easy in his manner. “That’s what I meant to be telling you.”
“I wondered if this was leading to something.”
Constance slowed her pace, still tracing her way along the cliff top gardens. Immaculately kept, but none of it real, of course. Who bothered with walks in the park these days anyway. They were still a while off the gleaming plastic utopia that the Higher Ups were touting. Anyone with any sense kept to the protective embrace of the Corporations.
Constance feigned a lovers broken moment, stood up at the altar, perhaps for the first time, and contemplating the romantic ideal of tossing herself off the cliff tops. A slight thought bought her Headsup into being, soft yet stark in its presence. She blinked free any contextual spam and thought about the Principle. The moments passed with the crashing of the waves below, as the line connected back through countless satellites.
“He didn’t show,” she thought, trying not to let her jaw lock as she thought, rather than spoke. It was a telling habit, one that Manly had warned her about.
The elderly Japanese gentleman that appeared at the side of her peripheral looked nonplussed. He had the solid, yet gleaming presence of hyper reality about him. A little of his gardens were leaking into her sight, giving her own surrounds a curious look of East meets West.
“Really?” Constance shot back. “Given the last few times, I figured that you would have realized that he wouldn’t show. If he doesn’t turn up for a real wedding, you think that he would be any difference just because we need to get close to him now?” There was a bitterness there. Maybe she did give a damn. Just a little.
“Ah, no matter,” he continued. His elderly face gave away nothing in that all too Japanese way. “There is still the matter that he was under orders to go through with it this time.”
Constance blinked, trying to let her sight settle on the here and now, and keep her Principle on the link. He was dressed in simple attire, but elegant. Kimono and hakama. “Well, yes,” she said. “Funny that the only thing that would get him to the altar with me is orders. But that didn’t work.”
“Of course. You realize that he countermanded my orders by not being there.”
“Yes.” There was that, but somehow it still didn’t surprise Constance that he didn’t show. Her jaw was starting to hurt a bit. She just never got the trick of subvocalization all that well
“There is the matter of what to do about that. If Carter is a double, then that is problem enough. But if he is countermanding my orders, that is another on top of trouble.”
Constance blinked, her expression still hard, fixed. This time it was more by the implications of it than trying to keep the link in one place. The Principle picked up a pair of shears, turning to a small bonzai. Real. Priceless, perhaps.
“It grieves me to think that I would have to take punitive action against one of my own Agents,” he said, regarding the stunted tree. “But it is necessarily. Killing two birds with one stone, yes? I would not mark it against your record if you chose not to be the one in this case to deliver my will.”
Constance frowned, and this time it escaped her and she spoke out loud, “Termination?”
“Yes. He was ordered to show, Agent. And he did not. Will you or will you not help me on this matter? The termination of Agent Carter.”